Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Cornerstone

The room was overflowing with baby gifts - two years of all the baby's needs, wrapped and beautifully presented, the work of many devoted Christians over several months. I ran my first Cities4life baby shower yesterday for a young woman I helped counsel who chose life rather than abortion for her precious baby. A small church spearheaded by a dynamo, Pam, begged to collect the items for the shower. A Cities4Life partner, Truth and Mercy Ministries, filled in the gaps for items we couldn't collect. A Facebook friend from across the country mailed me supplies. Mary Rushing, a fellow counselor who was pivotal in helping this young woman choose life filled in other gaps in our "loot" and one of her friends provided a "diaper cake." Mary's entire family assisted in transportation and loading of two van-fulls of baby items. The common link in all these donors was love of Jesus, and the desire to not only encourage women in crisis pregnancies to choose life, but to help with resources to raise that precious child. An essential part of the Cities4life ministry to the abortion mills is that we bring the only true hope any of us have to these women in crisis: Jesus.

I really can think of nothing better to write, with my heart filled with the blessings of the day, than to share my "letter" to L, which I presented at the end of our shower. So here it is. May it bless you. When I finished and asked L if she had anything she wanted to say, she said, "Amen."

My Prayers and Thoughts For You As you Enter Life with Your New Child

We have given you many gifts today, but the most important gift is this last one, a Bible.
As a new mother, you will have many new experiences, and you will probably feel unprepared to handle them. Most new mothers manage, and most of us feel like it is impossible at times. The power of your love for this new little baby will carry you both through many tough situations and sleepless nights. Nonetheless, I have found that nothing has guided me more or helped me more in my role as a parent than the word of God. I believe the most precious gift you can give your child is a strong faith in the One who created her and loves her even more than you do.
The first step in teaching her to have a life-long faith that will uphold her through the inevitable hard times in life is to have an assurance of your own faith.

So I have some questions for you.

Do you know where you would be going if you walked out of here and were hit by a car and killed? Would you be in heaven…or in hell?
Most of us hope we have been “good” and that that might earn us a spot in heaven. However, that is not what the Bible says. The Bible tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “All our works are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6.) We are told that there is only one way to salvation, or eternal life in heaven: "Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:11-12

Therefore, I have some more questions:
Have you ever lied? What does that make you? A liar
Have you ever stolen? What does that make you? A thief
Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain? What does that make you? A blasphemer
Have you ever looked on someone with lust? The Bible says that makes you an adulterer.
Have you ever spoken angrily and unkindly of others? The Bible says that even when we call our brother “fool”, we are murderers in our heart!
Most people, if not all, answer yes to these questions. That means we have already broken 5 of the Ten Commandments. We are liars, thieves, blasphemers, adulterers and murderers. We try to be good, but we will fail. No one can remain perfectly good. So, we have established, we are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God.

The Bible also tells us that God looks upon sin as a very serious matter. He is the perfect judge and His character requires that He be perfectly just. So if He is to be perfect in justice, is He obligated to punish sin? Couldn’t He just overlook some sin? Sometimes we think that while we admit to sinning, we had valid reasons, or difficult circumstances, or terrible backgrounds. God will weigh all that, won’t He? Shouldn’t He take it into consideration and let us into Heaven even though we sin?
Let’s think about that with an example. A murderer came before a judge and the judge asked him, “I am ready to declare your punishment. Since you have killed someone, you will receive the just penalty which is the death sentence. What do you have to say for yourself?”
The murderer answered, “I am really sorry. I tried really hard not to murder…but if you knew the guy I killed. Well he really deserved it! And besides, I was having a very terrible day, and if you knew how hard my life was, you would see why I lost my temper. I promise I won’t murder anymore. I don’t think I should go to jail.”
Should the judge let him go free?
No, of course not. We all know that lawbreakers must be punished. When we let lawbreakers go free, we endanger society. We all have within us the desire for justice, and punishing a murderer is just.

Well, perhaps you see God’s dilemma. We all have broken God’s laws. As I pointed out, most of us have broken at least five of the Ten Commandments, and we haven’t even looked at the other five. So what is God to do? He must punish law-breakers. But He is also perfectly merciful and He loves us. He desires that none of us should perish and be separated from Him for all eternity. Therefore, He has provided a perfect solution. 

Let’s return to our murderer before the judge. The judge says, “No, you must be sentenced to death, as that is what the punishment for murder is.” But suddenly, a young man who has done no wrong, with his whole life before him, stands up and says, “Your Honor! Please, do not take the life of that man! I will go to the gas chamber for him. Kill me instead.”

That is what Jesus did for us. He offered to die in our place.

If the prisoner turned to the young man and said, “No, I will not accept that gift you have offered,” then the prisoner will still be killed for his sin. That is what it is like when we refuse to trust God, to believe in what Jesus did, and to reject His offer of eternal life through the gift of His sacrifice. We will be punished for our sin, which will result in being eternally separated from God. The Bible tells us we will go to Hell, and it is a terrible place.

However, if we accept God’s gift, if we admit we are sinners, are sorry for our sin, and accept the offer Jesus makes to substitute His life for ours, our sins are washed away, completely forgiven. The penalty for our sin is paid by Jesus, and God accepts us into His kingdom. The Bible says, in John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

When we accept Jesus’ gift, we are “saved” from our sin, and given eternal life with God in Heaven.
If you read your Bible, God will help you understand this. He will also give you many guidelines in this book that are meant for your good, to help and to protect you.

One of the most important things you can do for your baby is pray about all this and if you believe, ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins. Accept His gift of salvation, and pledge to live your life from this moment forward as He wants you to live it. Trust Him as Lord and Savior. If we believe Jesus really died for us on the cross, then we should be filled with gratitude and love. And if we love Him, we will do what He wants us to do. We will live in a way that honors Him. If we don’t, we need to ask ourselves if we really love Him…if we really believe in Him.

There is a very important thing about living for Jesus that you must consider. God designed us so that we can only have babies when a mother and father join together. He gives very clear guidance in the best situation for a baby to be raised. He tells us that man and woman were created specifically to help and love each other. From the first book of the Bible, Genesis, God tells us: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

In other words, from the beginning God tells us that one man and one woman are to marry and become one. Children came after Adam and Eve were joined together in marriage by God, not before. Marriage is to be permanent, for “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9) There are many verses in the Bible that warn us that sex outside of marriage is “fornication” and adultery. Old fashioned words, perhaps, but there is no wiggle room. God intends sex to be beautiful, but only within the confines of marriage. He does this not because He is a spoil sport and wants us to have no fun, but because He wants what is best for us, and what is best for any children that come from the union of a husband and wife.

All the research in how children most thrive indicates that a stable mother and father family is by far best for children to feel secure and do well in life. That is not to say that there are no single moms who manage to raise great kids. There are, but it is a very hard path, and there is a much greater incidence of poverty, teen pregnancy, depression, and government dependency in families without a mother and father married and jointly raising the children.

So God’s plan is for our good, and makes sense. From this point forward, you can make good choices to follow God’s plan, and to raise your daughter to follow God’s plan. To do that, you need to know God’s plan. And God makes His plan very clear in this Book I am giving you today. Read it, know it, teach it to your child, obey it, and God guarantees we will be blessed.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3: 1-4

If we do this, if we obey God and strive to follow Him, God Himself tells us: in Romans 6:22-23: But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We will be blessed beyond measure, and we will have eternal life and we can be secure that when we die, we will go to Heaven. There is nothing more important to think about, or to teach your child. Just as you want what is best for your child, God wants what is best for you. My prayer for you today is that you will yield your life to God, follow Him, and love Him so completely that your little baby will want nothing more than to do the same.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lord Have Mercy

Today I am having a lavish baby shower for one of the mama's that chose life rather than abortion through the counsel of Cities4life volunteers. I have been a friend of this young mama now for many months, and she is very dear to me. I am not known for my cooking skill, but I researched good meals for brunch-time gatherings, downloaded a great egg/sausage casserole, planned and shopped, and assembled it ahead of time. I had purposely found a make-ahead recipe that I could assemble the day before and cook easily in the morning. I made an extra one for her family so after the baby shower, her siblings would have a great meal too since the family is struggling, and often go hungry.

Last night, she texted me, "I am so excited about tomorrow, Mrs. Vicky!"
"Me too!" I  answered, "And I made an extra egg/sausage casserole for your family!How does that sound?"
Then a little later, "My mom is allergic to eggs and I can't eat them since being pregnant. But don't worry, I can nibble around the eggs."

No she can't. 

It is all mixed in together in one conglomerate casserole. The guest of honor can not eat the special meal I had prepared with such excitement and careful planning.

It was bedtime, I had to leave the house by 9 this morning, and I had little else to concoct a fancy shower meal. I quickly perused what I had in the house.
"How about a ground turkey/cheesy casserole without eggs?" I suggested, "And onions for flavor if you tolerate those?"
"No thank you. I will eat a big breakfast and won't be hungry."
"You might be surprised. It is a yummy casserole."
Or at least if miracles can still happen, it will be. I scurried about assembling the new casserole, without eggs, hoping the recipe works without eggs. When I bake it this morning I will find out. 

Stupid, stupid, stupid me!!!! Why hadn't I thought to ask if she had allergies or even preferences? I just assumed EVERYONE loved sausage/egg casserole. The two other ladies coming are bringing side dishes, so hopefully there will be something she will eat. And she may like the turkey casserole. She didn't know what a casserole was, so perhaps she will discover it is something she likes. But I was already nervous about running my first shower and now, I am doomed.

Deep breath.

What really matters? Do we have two vans full of wrapped gifts that will provide all this precious baby's needs for two full years? Supplies, clothes, car seat, stroller, bouncy seats, changing table, crib? Yes.
Do we have 3 women coming who love this young lady, and have prayed for her, and gathered supplies for her, and texted her, and set up all kinds of resources for her for months now? Yes.
Does she understand that the love of Jesus has prompted this outpouring of generosity from Christians all over the area on her behalf and when she told me she felt all alone, I reminded her of that, and she was heartened? Yes.
Do I have a neatly typed letter I wrote for her, with oodles of verses that point her to the truth of salvation in Jesus and the wonderful protection of choosing a life of purity and obedience to Him? Yes.
Is it already tucked inside her new Bible, the last and most precious gift I will give her? Yes.
Have I reread it several times and rehearsed how I will present this message at the close of the shower and then prayed that the Holy Spirit will lead me and take over my wandering mouth? Yes.

Then don't worry about the stupid casserole.

Praise God for the little life that was spared.
Praise God for the outfits and supplies donated by people who desperately desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Praise God for the people and fellow counselors who have come alongside me to help set up food deliveries, college advice, church Bible studies and peer/mentors for this mama and her family.
Praise God for the sweet young mama who wants to make a better life for her baby than she had, and listens intently to our counsel and advice.
Praise God that she is beginning to know Jesus through His servants.

Please pray for us all. Off to my first Cities4life baby shower and I am the one in charge. Lord, have mercy. Praise God for His mercy!
If you desire to be part of this life-changing ministry, go to

1 Peter 4:10

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

1 Peter 4:10-11

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Acts 20:35 

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Galatians 5:13-14

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

John 13:12-14 

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.

Mark 10:44-45 

And whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

When Peace Like a River Attendeth my Way

The river was smooth, barely a ripple marring the glassy surface. The sun was still not too high in the sky so the shade from the trees on the bank kept a blanket of coolness over me as I kayaked along the peaceful shore. It was completely quiet and still. Total soothing peace. In fact, I was thinking of the beautiful words of a classic hymn, "When peace like a river attendeth my way..."


Out of nowhere, there was a sudden eruption of some humongous form just inches from my boat. It was so unexpected and lightning fast that I did not catch sight of the monster, just the aftermath of it's catapult out of the water. I cried out, "What was that!!!???" and clutched my oars as my boat rocked on the wake of the monster. Surely no mere fish could have made that ginormous splash?

I glanced around nervously, and paddled quickly to get out of the vicinity. The river resumed its mirror sheen. Then just as my heart was settling out of arrhythmia, again there was a massive splash and something boiled from the depths and then disappeared again before I could see it. And again, it had been inches from my boat.

Seriously freaked out now, I paddled away from shore. Whatever monstrous creature it was, it seemed to like the shade too. And it did not want to share.

I never did see if it was a fish or a Leviathan...or maybe a displaced Loch Ness monster. I hurried away. So much for "peace like a river."

Funny. The next line of the classic hymn is: "When sorrows like sea billows roll..."
Well if ever there was a sea billow, this was a sea billow!

The hymn goes on: "Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul."

The hymn captures an important point. Peace is great, and we all love those placid quiet moments, but in a flash, peace can be destroyed and we are in the midst of turmoil. If you are like me, when your boat is violently rocked by unseen or even seen struggles within and about, your fear increases in direct inverse proportion to your faith. The less I trust in God, the more I am terrified by the monstrous onslaughts of life. The more I am immersed in prayer and Bible study, the more I trust that I and my loved ones are safe in the arms of the God who loves me. Additionally, the more I trust God, the more I understand that safety in this world is ultimately of little matter. God has my soul firmly in His sights, and no monster of the depths can wrench it from Him.

If we, like the psalmist, can grasp that peace or trouble cannot determine the state of our soul, we will know contentment in God.

Still, I skedaddled out of there as fast as I could.

Romans 16:20 

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Romans 15:13 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 8:6 

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 5:1 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Does it Mean To Fight Evil Biblically

I went to my first political rally. It was a pro-life rally in front of Sen. Hagan's office protesting her refusal to let the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" come before the senate for discussion. (The bill would make it illegal to perform abortions after 20 weeks since science unequivocally has determined the baby feels excruciating pain from at least 20 weeks on.) I had a blast!

Before leaving home, I told my husband to have his cell phone on in case he was my one phone call from jail. (I've never been to a political rally but on TV, they are always getting dragged by their ankles off to jail.) (Just in case, I wore underwear without holes in them.) It was great to see a bunch of my sidewalk counselor buds from the Abortion Mill there. In fact, listen to this little "miracle." I parked at a meter, not far from Hagan's office. She closed her parking lot, I heard, so none of the rally group could park in her building's public lot. Which my taxes pay for. Nice, huh? Anyway, I only had one quarter. That only got me 15 minutes in the meter and I needed at least an hour. As I stood there wondering what to do, a fellow sidewalk counselor I had never met walked by. I thought it looked like him from pictures I had seen on Facebook. I took a chance.
"Are you Russ?" I asked.
He looked shocked, "Yes?"
"I am a sidewalk counselor for Cities4Life...and I need quarters."
Anyway, Russ had a bunch of quarters which he gladly gave me. I only had to use two, because then the meter went ballistic and said, "Out of Order."
"You can stay here all day now and not get a ticket," assured Russ.

We walked on to the rally together. There were maybe 50 people. I had expected more, but was told that was a good turn out. There were tons of police around, as well as reporters and cameras. There was one opposing protester - a pro-abortion lady I know from the Abortion Mill where I volunteer as a sidewalk counselor. This woman, JA, is security/bouncer for the mill, and is forever yelling at us counselors to "Stop blocking the road!!!" when cars with abortion-minded women pull over to talk to us. In fact, last week she asked me, "Is it so hard to ask cars to pull over so you don't block the road?" I quickly retorted, "Is it so hard to soften your heart to the children you are helping to kill?"
"If they were children, I would be in jail," she snapped.
"They are children, and you should be in jail!" I said. She walked back to her post as Abortion Mill Security/bouncer. I went back to stopping cars.

At the rally, she was carrying a double sided sign. One side said, "Keep your religion out of my vagina" which frankly was more appropriate for her to hold than the male bouncer that had been holding it earlier this month at the abortion mill. The other side of her sign said: "Don't listen to junk science. If pro-lifers are right, then blows-jobs are cannibalism."
Nice, huh?
(And logic is apparently not high on her list, since no pro-life advocate I know of has ever voiced protection of sperm.) Forgive me for my un-Godly laughter as a policeman asked her to get off the road, and "stop blocking traffic." (Proving again that what goes around, comes around.)
Anyway, back to the rally. There were wonderful eloquent speakers, who cited all the scientific reasons for abolishing all abortions, but at the minimum, at 20 weeks and beyond. By 20 weeks, the pre-born baby feels pain as her body is being ripped apart in the abortion procedure. Probably excruciating pain. There is now no question about that.

One of our most ardent and long-standing pro-life leaders spoke to me afterwards. He understands why the bill is proposed, but he says we Christians are adopting Satan's tactics. Incrementalism is a tool of evil and deception. He voiced the concern that we are called to stand firmly for what God says in the Bible, and not concede "exceptions" to gain a victory. When we say no abortions should be permitted after 20 weeks because the fetus feels pain...are we representing what the Biblical view is? Clearly no baby should be so cruelly dealt with, particularly when the scientific evidence tells us she is in unbearable agony at least by 20 weeks. But, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the God of the Bible says life is sacred from the moment of conception. Not from the moment of pain perception, not from the moment of viability outside the womb, not because he is conceived in love, not because he is wanted. Life is sacred because God created humans in God's image and knew each of us before He formed us in the womb. All abortion is wrong. From God's perspective as His word proclaims, human life from the womb "is wonderfully and fearfully made." I commented that at least the pre-born babies after 20 weeks would be spared with this bill. My friend wants no baby to die, but he feels unless we proclaim unashamedly the whole truth, that no baby at any age should be aborted, we may win a victory but lose the war. God is not an incrementalist. Human life is either sacred, or it is not. Any line drawn determining a point when it "becomes" sacred or worthy of protection is arbitrary. I am pondering his thoughts. I agree with his premise, of course, but am still mulling over how one is called to best right or fight such evil. At least this incrementalism is chipping away at the total bad instead of chipping away at total good, as Satan does.

The rally ended, and since I had unlimited time on my parking meter (thank you Russ!), I went and introduced myself to the rally leaders. The crowd dissipated, though a full complement of police remained. As I started back to my car, I stopped to thank an officer.
"Thank you for being here," I said, "Providing protection."
"You are welcome, ma'am," she told me, "This was about the nicest group of protesters I have ever worked with."
"Yes," I agreed, "But how could we not be? A bunch of people who love God and think all life is sacred."
"Yes, ma'am," said the officer, smiling at me.

After the rally, I interviewed an abortionist. I was researching opposing views for a character I am developing in a book I am writing. This abortionist at one time was simultaneously an abortion doctor and an Ob/gyn who delivered babies. She told me how in the abortion clinic, she had one patient, the woman, and that woman alone was the focus of her treatment and concerns.
"The baby is not your patient?"
"But when you would see your next client, a pregnant woman who wanted her baby, you had two patients, right?"
"Yes," she told me.
I asked the question again, to be sure I understood her position."And in both cases, the women carried a baby. That baby could even be the same gestational age, but with the baby of the abortion-minded woman, you considered only the mother as your patient."
"And in the next hour, with the woman who wanted the baby, you considered both the mother and baby as your patients?"
"How could you do that?" I asked, "What changed?"
"If the baby is younger than 24 weeks, it is not viable. I don't consider it a patient until 24 weeks,"she answered. (She only performed first trimester abortions.)
"Is the baby not a human being under 24 weeks?" I asked.
"No, it is a 'potential' human being."
"What is the difference for you when it changes from 'potential' human being to human being?" I asked.
"There is no guarantee of survival before 24 weeks of life," she said, "So it is not 'human life' if there is no guarantee it will survive."
"Do any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow?" I asked.
She paused.
"Good question," she said.
"What about a newborn baby?" I asked, "Can it survive without its mother?"
"Yes," she said, "Of course not for more than a few days, but it can."
"I have read of cases of a 24 week old aborted fetus that survived for several minutes after being aborted," I said.
"Then it wasn't properly aborted."
"You mean killed before being expelled?"
"I have read of 21 week old babies who are born and survive," I said.
"There are miracles," she agreed.
"You told me you don't believe in God," I said, "What then do you attribute miracles to?"
She did not know. Things we don't understand, perhaps.

She told me of one mom who aborted her baby, then came to her later, distraught. She was overcome with remorse and asked why the doctor had not counseled her against abortion.
"But there was no flexibility of time available for extended counseling," the doctor told me.
"You feel bad about that incident?" I asked softly.
"Yes, I have never forgotten it. But it is a lie of the pro-life movement that this is a common occurrence. It is rare. That is why it sticks in my mind."
"But it was irreversible," I said, "You could not bring that baby back."
"No," said the abortionist.

Isaiah 49:16 

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

Psalm 127:3 

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Ephesians 2:10 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Luke 12:6-7 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Job 31:15 

Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

Isaiah 49:5 

And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength—

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

External Appearances

Have you ever thought of this amazing Biblical contrast?? When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after seeing God face to face chiseling the Ten Commandments, he had to cover his face with a veil or his own brightness would have been blinding. Yet when Jesus comes to earth, there is nothing about his demeanor or face to attract anyone. In fact, the Messiah was described in Isaiah as downright ugly: "For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him." Isaiah 53:2.  The son of God's face was apparently not glowing...nor even attractive.

Why? Why would God not make His son a total hunk? Why would He have Moses' face reflect the sight of God in a blinding aurora, but Jesus so ordinary that there is not a single mention of what he looked like when he arrived on earth as a human?

We are such appearance-conscious creatures. We are universally attracted to beautiful faces. Studies show that babies will look longer and more intently at pretty faces. Ugly people earn on the average 10% less than beautiful people. God knows seems likely we are designed that way. So why would he send Jesus with  "no beauty that we should desire him?" It is almost as though  He set Jesus up for failure!

Yet look at the description of Jesus in Revelations, when all who will choose Him have done so, and the end of the world is at hand:

His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.(Revelation 1:15)

And in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:13-14)

Curiouser and curiouser. When God fully reveals the Son of God to all humanity, when the chance to choose him has ended, then Jesus appears in all His splendid glory.

This is my thought. It is just a guess, and not to be taken as gospel truth, but it makes sense to me. God sees the heart. We tend not to. We tend to be influenced by the book cover more than the content, at least initially. (In fact, in the book clubs for authors that I belong to, a great deal of time and energy and discussion revolves around the perfect book cover.) I think God sent the absolute BEST content that ever happened to Earth in an unflattering cover to teach us about what really matters. We are not to be consumed with externals, or to make judgments based on superficial attributes. We are to dig deeper, to understand at the core who God is and what it means to be worthy before God. It has nothing to do with what we look like or what He looks like or what goodies He brings. It has everything to do with who we are in the sight of God and what Jesus did for us by His sacrificial death on the cross bearing the punishment we deserved. We are His sacred creation made for a unique and Holy purpose that no one else can fulfill, chosen specifically and lovingly to be with Him for all eternity.

Makes you kinda look at yourself in the mirror with a little more respect, doesn't it?

1 Samuel 16:7 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 John 3:1 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Against the Wind

I jogged alongside a car, chatting with the driver who had just dropped his girlfriend off to get an abortion. I knew they were conflicted. They had already left once, and the other sidewalk counselors and I had all spent time calling to them and offering support, resources, reasons to choose life. When they drove away, we cheered. A saved baby! But then they returned.

After dropping the girl, the man slowed his car as I asked if I could talk with him. He rolled down his window.
"I tried," he told me, "That's why we left the first time. But she won't listen to me. There is nothing else I can do." He drove slowly as I walked beside the car.
"Pull over," I urged, "I can give you our literature and suggest some other things you can try."
He began to accelerate. I broke into a jog.
"Please," I said, trying to hand him our pamphlet, "Give her this. It might make a difference."
"I tried," he said again, and sped away, leaving me...and his baby... in the dust.

 Three times yesterday that happened -- cars left, we thought they'd chosen life, and then they returned! However, two left and didn't return. The abortionist had not arrived so we knew they had not aborted their baby. One didn't speak with us, but the other told us softly, "I didn't do it," as she slipped into her car and drove away.

After the draining morning, I went straight to the Catawba River to kayak. I knew the rest of my week was busy, and the weather was glorious. Also, I needed the time to process all the sadness. I pulled into the parking lot of the launch site. A man was sitting in his car, window down, eating lunch. He waved and then asked me about my shirt. I had my Cities4Life shirt on, with the logo of a baby's face and the word Protect. Cities4Life is the ministry I volunteer with that helps women choose not to abort and then helps them find resources after that decision.

"I'm a sidewalk counselor at an abortion mill," I told the man, "In fact, I just came from there."
He gazed at me, "You are in the front-lines."
"Yes. The gates of hell."
"So you came here to decompress."
It turns out he was an ordained minister who used to work with incarcerated youth. In the end, he had to leave the ministry. The stress had caused difficulties that had disabled him emotionally.

I hurried with my kayak to the river. Since there was no one else around, I figured it was a good idea to thank him for his service to God, and then skedaddle. The wind was very strong. There were whitecaps on the river, which is very rare. I headed upstream, into the wind. It was not too difficult. I have been kayaking for months now this season, and my arms have grown strong. However, if I stopped paddling for a second, I was blown back down stream.

Keep paddling. Never let up, or you will get nowhere.

That is exactly how I feel at the abortion mill. We assume that everyone there is conflicted, everyone there could potentially change their minds about aborting, and we should not let up for a moment. Every second they can hear our voice, we should proclaim truth and give them the hope of God. Sometimes the ones that laugh at us and call us names are the ones that leave in the end, telling us they couldn't do it. We may feel like we are paddling against the wind in many things God asks us to do, but if we keep paddling, we eventually get closer to where we are supposed to be. There will come a day of rest, but until that day -- Never let up, or you will get nowhere.

After 45 hard minutes of battling against the wind, I turned my kayak around. It was almost like a whitewater run over rapids as the wind whooshed me over the water back to the dock in no time. Exhilarating. Effortless. A reward for the struggle that I had endured against the wind.

1 Peter 5:10 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

James 1:2-4 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 14:1 

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

Romans 8:28 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Monday, August 25, 2014

But He Can!

Do you ever have a spiritual theme recur so often that you know God is knocking you over the head with it? One has been stalking me lately. I have read the verse in my daily study, or heard the verse in a song on the radio, or heard it in a sermon, or even seen it on Facebook over and over this week: "I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."

Where we put our focus is where our thoughts dwell. I remember that even as a little girl, I tended to dwell on sadness. I would think of the plight of homeless animals, or bullied children, or unachievable dreams. And I would walk down the street crying. I am not kidding. I remember at age 5 walking down the street crying, thinking my melancholy thoughts of the sorrows of the world, when I saw a neighbor. I quickly gulped down my tears till I passed him, and then began crying again. I have always carried the weight of the world's sorrow in my heart.

Yesterday, I was driving and the same thing happened. I confess, this is not a rare event. It has happened since I was a little girl. I started thinking of all the sadness and hopeless situations in my world, and began sobbing. And then, a Christian song came on the radio, "I will lift my eyes to my maker..." and my focus shifted to God. I dried my eyes, blew my nose, and thought while God may have given me a heart that is soft enough to perpetually mourn, He probably didn't want me spending my life mourning. Instead, I think He was reminding me to lift my eyes and put my focus on God. I can no more carry the weight of the worlds' sorrows than I can heal them....but He can. He can!!

Psalm 121:1-3

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

Ephesians 2:14
Christ is our peace. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Provision for Today

I could not believe it as I started reading the research article I had downloaded for my new book. All the plot problems I had been unable to work out suddenly slid into place like a combination lock when all the correct numbers are aligned. All the worry and concern and certainty that I was a hopeless writer with no imagination evaporated! I suddenly had a clear picture of what book I was going to write and all the angst of the past few weeks was gone. I felt excitement, enthusiasm, joy!

I had gone kayaking earlier in the day, in part to mull over the struggles in my story line. A vital part of my work as an author is finding quiet places where I can hear God and hear my own heart. I often have revelations in the midst of beautiful places in nature.  I came to no conclusions while kayaking, except that I needed to stop complaining about my life. I mean, I spent much of the first half hour of kayaking not exulting in how wonderful it all was, but in whining to God about my life. Yet, here I was with a body strong enough to paddle for an hour in one of the prettiest rivers on earth. I had eyes to see the red wild flowers along the shore, ears to hear the screech of the osprey, nose to smell the fishy scent of the river and the pine, and skin to feel the touch of a silky breeze. God was giving me manna galore every single day, and I was moaning about all the things I didn't have, like a NY Times Best Seller or a clear story line for my new book.

And now this! I have a great idea for my new book! I quickly wrote a chapter and can't wait to come home after church and write another! God is not really in the business of setting any of us up for the next ten years, but He is remarkably great about sending us the provision for today.

For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
Psalm 149:4

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Day is At Hand

I tried a new art technique with my little art class at the nursing home. Up till now, we have just been working on drawing objects using simple, basic shapes. Today, I introduced shading. We did a picture of a sea gull, and I wanted to teach them shading techniques to "suggest" waves of the ocean without having to draw in every wave. I expected them to struggle with it, but they did quite well. I had a few new students this week and one just watched (and sometimes slept) but seemed glad for the company.

Somehow, that launched us into a discussion of all our unique talents and how each of us had been very good at something. One of the sweetest, most humble women there told me her gift had been art.
"Really!" I said, "I can tell you used to draw."
"Once, I won a prize," she told me smiling, "For drawing a pair of mittens."
"What did you win?" I asked.
"First place," she said grinning a little self consciously.
Another was a good cook, another a seamstress, and another a pianist. They all made no move to leave, though the class was over and it was lunch time. They all seemed to have fond memories of that one thing they used to be good at.
"I don't draw anymore," said one, "My hand shakes too much."
"I can't play a note on the piano now, of course," said the pianist.
"I don't cook anymore, but I did use to be quite good," said another.

Still, no one looked sad for the skill that had blossomed and now faded. They all seemed content to sit in the cascading colors of fond memories. We as a culture spend so much time fighting the natural progression of aging. It was pleasant to be in the company of people content with where they had been and quietly satisfied with where they were now, making the most of fading abilities to learn a new skill in the twilight of life.

My Bible study that morning had been about how one of the greatest tools of Satan is to have us focus on the past, or even better, the future. If one is obsessed with mistakes or glories of the past, one becomes bitter and unhappy with what cannot be changed or disatisfied with what cannot be rekindled. If one becomes too obsessed with the future, it often brings useless anxiety and fear. The time to focus on is the moment at hand. If God has given us the breath of this second, and we are grateful, we have overcome a great deal of what robs us of joy.

One woman, upon finishing her picture, peered at it and said to the woman beside her, "We are regular Grandma Moses-es here!"
"Yes, we are!" laughed her friend.

Matthew 6:31-34 

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Psalm 23:1-6 

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

2 Corinthians 5:17 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Isaiah 43:18-19 

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Romans 13:12 

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.